Using musical instruments in the classroom

Differentiation

Being able to offer appropriate challenge to all is important. When using instruments, the level of differentiation required can be quite wide. You can give children different tasks, different resources, different levels of support and differentiate by outcome too. However it is important that all children can feel that they are acting musically and contributing.  Indeed, music lends itself well to this – on a football pitch it is not possible for adults and children to co-exist with everyone fully contributing at a level that personally challenges them. In music it is possible; there are many examples of professional musicians sitting side-by-side with young musicians playing very simple parts and contributing to a proper performance of a piece of music – with everyone being an essential part of a musical community.  

As an example, think about a class learning the ukulele. Over the term they are learning the chords of C, F and G. They are learning strumming patterns and a range of songs. Some children are working on fluently strumming on the beat on one chord; others are developing the skill to move fluently between two chords. Two children in the class already play the guitar and are able to move between the three chords, and are developing their own strumming patterns. The teacher chooses appropriate repertoire so that everyone knows what to try and what to move onto next. After a few minutes of independent practice, the teacher puts on a recording of Five Years Time by Noah and the Whale and the class play along – some children only play one chord in the repeating chord loop (C,F,G,F) and then have a few bars rest, while others play two or more, and/or add more complex strumming patterns.  What is important is that everyone contributes to a musical experience which is authentic, worthwhile and encourages all children to be part of this musical community.